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20th Century Boy – Review

PICTURE Warren Sollars (Marc Bolan) 20th Century Boy The Musical - UK Tour - Photo Robert DayOpera House, Manchester until Saturday 26 April

Part musical, part family drama, 20th Century Boy delivers pathos, poignancy, power chords and an electrifying journey through the music of glam rock legend Marc Bolan.

I found this a cathartic musical experience and a welcome relief from current chart sounds. I sensed that many of the audience, who would have been there first time around, probably felt the same.

And there could be no doubt about the audience’s delight when they got up to dance to the playful, mercurial, yet muscular, rock sounds and driving riffs from some of the best-loved and best-selling songs of the glam rock era, like Get it on, Hot Love and Jeepster.

In 20th Century Boy we enjoy the rags-to-riches ride, seeing a believable Warren Sollars playing Marc Bolan in transition, first as a peacock-proud, suited, fifties buck, then as a folkie Bob Dylan wannabe, then as a languid, candle-surrounded, acoustic-guitar-playing hippy dreamer troubadour and, finally, in his apotheosis, as the electric-guitar-playing driving force of glam rock anthem machine, T.REX.

Marc Bolan’s life was cut tragically short and the show depicts the wreckage of hurt people who wonder can they forgive each other, or themselves, for what happened.

It’s a story about people struggling to communicate and bridge a geographical and emotional gap to deal with shared grief. It’s told in a satisfying way, with characters painted in broad brush strokes, through minimal, yet effective, dialogue which engages us and takes us with them on their journey.

And the vehicle for the story, which skips effortlessly between different time zones, is the quest for knowledge by Rolan Bolan – played by Luke Bailey (Waterloo Road) – the son who lost his father when he was just two years old. Rolan wants family members to share their memories of the dad he never knew.

The show’s impact builds, not just from the family drama, nor from the inevitable trajectory to the sad ending, but from the way time zones are crossed and re-crossed, to create a layering effect, which builds and melds with the music in an evocative and sometimes haunting way.

After the tale reaches its inevitable denouement and the curtain calls are taken – the show revs up again for a rock concert – to send the audience home with Marc Bolan’s triumphant musical legacy ringing in their ears.

It’s the music that matters and 20th Century Boy will make you want to dust down your guitar – or buy one – and add playing in a band to your list for life – whatever your age.

So why don’t you? Long live rock and roll.

Picture: Warren Sollars (Marc Bolan) in 20th Century Boy, pic by Robert Day.

 20th Century Boy is on at the Opera House in Manchester until Saturday, April 26. Performances are on Friday 25 April at 7.30pm and Saturday 26 April at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

Tickets are available from the Box Office. For group bookings phone: 0844 871 3038.

For tickets online: www.atgtickets.com/shows/20th-century-boy/opera-house-manchester.

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